CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Sunday began with hope, and it ended in despair.
Hoping to change the perception and trend in the series against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Browns lost quarterback Jason Campbell in the third quarter, turned it over 4 times and saw their season go down the drain.
Behind 217 yards passing from Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh rolled to a 27-11 win over the Browns on a windy and frigid Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“It was a disappointing game,” head coach Rob Chudzinski said. “Losing is never easy. We weren’t good enough today.”
With the loss, which dropped them to 4-7, the Browns can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye.
“You can’t lay 2 eggs in a row and expect to be a playoff team,” safety T.J. Ward said.
The Steelers, who have won 3 straight and 5 of their last 7 since an 0-4 start, became the first team within the AFC North to win a divisional game on the road this season, and of course it came in Cleveland.
20 degree temperatures, 31 mph winds and a wind chill of 1 at kickoff didn’t bother Roethlisberger, who improved to 16-1, or the Steelers, who won for the 25th time in 30 games since 1999 against the Browns.
“I’m tired of losing,” Ward said. “I’m tired of losing, and in this manner. It’s a little bit different if you go to the wire, you fighting the whole game, you have an opportunity to win the game at the end but we’re out of the game in the fourth quarter.
“Nobody wants to play like that.”
Disaster struck with 8 minutes to play in the third when Campbell was sacked by Steelers cornerback William Gay. Safety Will Allen recovered the fumble and returned it 49 yards to the Browns 4.
Roethlisberger hit Emmanual Sanders in the end zone on the next play for a 20-3 advantage with 7:43 to play in the quarter.
Campbell, who was carted to the locker room after reaching the sideline, didn’t return due to a head injury.
Brandon Weeden came on in relief and was stripped by safety Troy Polamalu and defensive end Cameron Heyward scooped it up for the Steelers with 6:15 to play in the fourth.
On their next possession, Gay picked Weeden off and returned it 21 yards for a 27-3 lead late in the fourth quarter to drive home the final nail.
“That was it, that was the nail,” Weeden said.
Weeden finished 13 of 30 for 209 yards, a TD and interception while Campbell completed 14 of 22 passes for 124 yards before departing.
Lost in an awful day by the Browns was a spectacular effort from receiver Josh Gordon.
Gordon set a franchise record for receiving yards in a single game with 237 yards and a touchdown, which came on a 1-yard throw from Weeden with 3:17 left in the game. He broke the 191 yard mark set by Ozzie Newsome Oct. 14, 1984 vs. the Jets. Gordon tied Newsome’s mark for most catches in a game with 14.
“Honestly it means nothing to me. After taking a loss like that, it means nothing,” Gordon said. It was great for me to get that experience, but if we can’t go out there and win, I don’t really care about it.”
Weeden found Davone Bess for the 2-point conversion after Gordon’s score to provide the final margin.
The Steelers took an early 3-0 lead on Shawn Suisham’s 47-yard field goal but it was short lived. Billy Cundiff answered with a 49-yard field goal with 7:29 to play in the opening quarter.
The Browns have gone 19 straight games without an opening drive for a touchdown.
After pinning the Steelers at their own 4 in the second quarter, D’Qwell Jackson was unable to come up with a pass intended for Heath Miller – it would’ve gone for an easy pick 6 but the Steelers punted instead.
The Browns took over at their own 47 following a 41-yard punt by Mat McBriar but were unable to turn it into points.
With 3:37 to play in the half, Campbell was caught from behind by Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds and he was slow to get up following the ankle tackle.
Weeden took over and was unable to connect with Jordan Cameron on third down.
Following the Browns punt, Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown, who beat Joe Haden, for a 41-yard touchdown up the sideline and a 10-3 lead with 2:33 to play in the half.
“I’m playing against the best receiver on the other team every single week,” Haden said. “You know what I’m saying? Things are going to happen. Technique is going to get out of place sometime. They are going to make a play, you know they get paid big bucks, also. I’m not knocking what I did at all. I’m just saying as a corner it’s not going to always go my way.”
Campbell returned on the ensuing series which came to an abrupt end when Chris Ogbonnaya was stripped by Steelers linebacker Troy Pollamalu, who also recovered it at the Browns 46.
Pittsburgh turned it into a 33-yard field goal by Suisham with :07 left to go into the locker room leading 13-3.
In the third quarter, Cundiff shanked a 46-yard attempt wide left into the dawg pound that almost took out a beer vendor.
It was that kind of day.
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